Researcher Profile: Feng Jiang

Feng Jiang for Sept 2013 e-newsletter

Feng Jiang, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology, and his colleagues at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, have been awarded a research grant from LUNGevity Foundation to identify sputum biomarkers that could ultimately serve as the basis for the early detection of lung cancer.

Dr. Jiang is collaborating on this project with pulmonologists, oncologists, and thoracic surgeons with extensive experience in all aspects of lung cancer care.

Various groups are now starting to recommend low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans for people at high risk for lung cancer, because the test can detect lung cancer earlier and reduce mortality by 20 percent.  However, because LDCT only has a 61 percent specificity, it creates a lot of false-positive results.

To help eliminate the emotional and financial costs associated with a false lung cancer diagnosis, Dr. Jiang has been working to develop a sputum test to help clarify LDCT results. His groundbreaking work on sputum biomarkers garnered a lot of attention in 2009, including being highlighted on NBC News. However, those biomarkers were not efficient enough to use in clinical settings.

Building on his previous experiences in identifying sputum biomarkers and wielding the most advanced technologies available, Dr. Jiang is taking new approaches to identify highly efficient biomarkers in sputum to complement LDCT when diagnosing early-stage lung cancer.

“The recommendations in favor of LDCT are great steps in the right direction,” says Dr. Jiang. “But this emphasis on lung cancer screening makes the need for a complementary early detection test even more urgent.”

If successful, Dr. Jiang’s research will help physicians avoid prescribing potentially harmful treatments in patients who do not have lung cancer. In addition, it could help control health care costs for patients and their families. Ultimately, by improving the reliability of lung cancer diagnoses, this work could help save many lives.